While attending at gamescom 2013 we had the opportunity to see Warner Bros' latest Lego title in action: Lego Marvel Super Heroes. Almost inevitable following the hugely successful Avengers Assemble, this latest Lego adventure will feature a huge number of recognisable Marvel characters, and a story written in collaboration with the Marvel writing team.
Our session opened with a demonstration of the variety in character abilities, and we were transported to the Grand Central Station area of Manhattan, where Iron Man and the Hulk find themselves standing on a bridge blocked by traffic.
During this brief section, Iron Man first began clearing the bridge by flying around and blasting pulse bolts at the stationary vehicles. Switching to Hulk saw a more direct approach being adopted, as the big green one simply picks up vehicles, smashes them and throws them away.
This quick demonstration of character variety aside, the session was then transported to the SHIELD Helicarrier and we were introduced to some of the core concepts of the game.
Little plot was given away, aside that the story will revolve around Dr Doom as the principal antagonist, who is amassing a collection of 'cosmic bricks'. Given that the game is marketed at the ages 7+ market, it would be our guess that what plot there is will be something to hang the gameplay off, rather than a detailed and dynamic storytelling experience.
Manhattan will be the hub for the game, albeit reimagined somewhat so as to include a mix of real world locations, the Lego style and the incorporation of certain Marvel-universe architecture, such as Stark Tower. Above the island is the SHIELD Helicarrier, which acts as a base of operations and can be reached by any character with flight abilities.
Following this brief explanation of mechanics, we got to saw a mission begin first hand in the most dramatic way imaginable. Mr Fantastic and Captain America, alerted to a break in at the Baxter Building involving Doctor Octopus, responded in the fastest way possible - by diving from the edge of the Helicarrier and skydiving directly down to the mission location.
Once again we saw a demonstration of the different characters abilities, and how they work together to complete goals. Upon landing outside the Baxter building, both our heroes were trapped in a locked park area. Mr Fantastic slid down a drain to get out, then transformed himself into a pair of bolt cutters to snip the padlock that was keeping his companion trapped. Captain America then hurled his shield to knock down a ladder that allowed the characters to access the door controls and enter the building.
On entering the building the mission began in earnest, which triggered a loading sequence. The sequence itself was perfectly integrated, taking the form of a fully voiced mission briefing so as to not detract from the immersion when loading inevitably occurs. It was a nice touch and one that other games can learn from.
The mission rapidly became secondary to the demonstration at this point, as the demo team got carried away with the (massive) character select menu, dropping different heroes in and out to show off their various abilities, skills and even unique animations - such as Iceman, who skates instead of runs, and Green Goblin who glides around the level tossing pumpkin bombs.
All-in, there are some 25-30 characters who appear in the main story mode, but over 100 available for 'free mode'.
In single player, the player can switch between these characters at the touch of a button. However, a two player cooperative mode also exists with dynamic split screen; and on the Wii U version, the controller tablet becomes the screen for player 1.
The last character saved for the demo team to show off was clearly one of their favourites; Stan Lee. Voiced by the man himself, Stan Lee's in-game character features a powerful combination of superhero powers, with a mix of abilities loaned from Spider-Man, the Human Torch and Wolverine - as well as the ability to transform into Stan-Hulk.
Lego Marvel Super Heroes seems to be a game focused on variety, with the staple series gameplay supplemented by a wide-range of varied characters and abilities made possible by the rich Marvel universe. If anything, the one criticism that could be raised based on the demonstration is that often the demo team had problems finding the character they were searching from on the massive character select menu; which was so big it could not fit on a single screen.
Fans of the franchise are in for a treat, as with a roster of powerful superheroes (and villains) to choose from, this could very well be the most varied game in the series to date. Lego Marvel Super Heroes is coming to PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360 and Xbox One; with mobile versions on Nintendo DS, 3DS and PlayStation Vita - all in November.